With a proven juggernaut as its competition, NHL 2K10 had a lot to prove. EA’s hockey offering was easily the best sports title of last year’s crop, and if you read ZT’s review of this year’s version (found HERE) you know that this years is just as good. So how does 2K’s icy offering hold up in the face of such stiff competition? The answer, unfortunately, is about as well as an ice rink in Ecuador.
First things first, graphically the game is a step up from last year’s version. They’ve added some great new animations, especially on the goalie side, and they’ve put a decent amount of work into making the sure the on ice action looks as great as possible. Player faces are a mixed bag of great approximations and mutated monstrosities. The various arenas you’ll face off in are well modeled; however the crowds that populate them are of somewhat generic quality.
On the presentation side of things, the game is mostly quite lacking. The radial menu’s used for navigating are quite intuitive, but they aren’t visually appealing in the least. Everything from the menu’s to the between game loading screams has a high level of polish, but unfortunately their generic look and design makes the game feel almost like a “knock-off” rather than a prime time player.
2K10 features a wealth of game modes, from the standard Quick Game and Franchise modes to some fun diversions like Pond Hockey and Mini-Rink. The franchise mode has seen the most progression over last year’s version, although it still feels a step behind where it should be for a modern sports title. In addition to an unfortunate lack of depth in terms of staff, player interaction, and scouting, it feels way to easy to build a powerhouse team by exploiting the computer controlled GM’s apparent ignorance when it comes to trading. I also ran across a glitch where I was completely unable to resign any players in the offseason, regardless of contract offer or interest level, but was able to sign them immediately upon reloading my previous save. If they can iron out some of these issues however, 2K has a good base here for a more successful franchise mode in next year’s version.
On the ice, more issues rear their ugly heads. Maneuvering your player around the ice feels sluggish, and you’ll want to immediately bump up the standard game speed in order to actually feel like a professional athlete and not just some weekend warrior. Right stick shot control returns, and while the stick works well enough, I found the standard button press to be a more consistent shot control method. Unfortunately, many of the controls (especially for dekes and checking) feel inconsistent and unresponsive. Often you’ll press the appropriate button for a sweet move or big time hit only to be greeted with a delayed player reaction or no reaction at all. The main reason behind this is the fact that once you’re player has begun an animation, you will be locked into it until I completes. Obviously, this can lead to frustration when attempting to wrest the puck from the other team or set yourself up for a one on one.
Despite the slow game speed and imprecise control, the unfortunate goalie and defender AI often still leads to abnormally high scoring games, even on the higher difficulty levels. Control and gameplay is the most important part of any sports game, and this is the area that 2K needs to focus on most for next years version. I would be remiss if I forgot to mention the cool ability to drive the Zamboni between periods however, and trying to clear the ice in the time allotted is a really fun diversion.
One of the big pluses of 2K10 is that online gameplay permeates nearly every corner of the game. You can pull friends and other players into just about every game mode, including your franchise. The Team Up quick game allows you to play with a full rink of online players. You can also share your rosters, created players and teams, and sliders online. Perhaps the coolest online functionality in the game is the Reelmaker feature, which allows you to share user created highlight reels.
While it does bring some good things to the table, NHL 2K10 unfortunately stumbles on the most important aspects of a good hockey game. Sluggish game speed, unreliable controls, and bland game modes leave the game several steps behind its competition. Next year, 2K needs to get back to the basics and focus on creating a great gameplay experience before all else. Once they nail the on ice action, they can naturally expand on some of the great ideas they have for online interaction. Until then, they’ll have to settle for second place.